HMGCS2 Mediation of Ketone Levels Affects Sorafenib Treatment Efficacy in Liver Cancer Cells

Fat Moon Suk, Chien Ying Wu, Wan Chun Chiu, Chia Ying Chien, Tzu Lang Chen, Yi Jen Liao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Primary liver cancer is the fifth leading death of cancers in men, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) accounts for approximately 90% of all primary liver cancer cases. Sorafenib is a first-line drug for advanced-stage HCC patients. Sorafenib is a multi-target kinase inhibitor that blocks tumor cell proliferation and angiogenesis. Despite sorafenib treatment extending survival, some patients experience side effects, and sorafenib resistance does occur. 3-Hydroxymethyl glutaryl-CoA synthase 2 (HMGCS2) is the rate-limiting enzyme for ketogenesis, which synthesizes the ketone bodies, β-hydroxybutyrate (β-HB) and acetoacetate (AcAc). β-HB is the most abundant ketone body which is present in a 4:1 ratio compared to AcAc. Recently, ketone body treatment was found to have therapeutic effects against many cancers by causing metabolic alternations and cancer cell apoptosis. Our previous publication showed that HMGCS2 downregulation-mediated ketone body reduction promoted HCC clinicopathological progression through regulating c-Myc/cyclin D1 and caspase-dependent signaling. However, whether HMGCS2-regulated ketone body production alters the sensitivity of human HCC to sorafenib treatment remains unclear. In this study, we showed that HMGCS2 downregulation enhanced the proliferative ability and attenuated the cytotoxic effects of sorafenib by activating expressions of phosphorylated (p)-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p-P38, and p-AKT. In contrast, HMGCS2 overexpression decreased cell proliferation and enhanced the cytotoxic effects of sorafenib in HCC cells by inhibiting ERK activation. Furthermore, we showed that knockdown HMGCS2 exhibited the potential migratory ability, as well as decreasing zonula occludens protein (ZO)-1 and increasing c-Myc expression in both sorafenib-treated Huh7 and HepG2 cells. Although HMGCS2 overexpression did not alter the migratory effect, expressions of ZO-1, c-Myc, and N-cadherin decreased in sorafenib-treated HMGCS2-overexpressing HCC cells. Finally, we investigated whether ketone treatment influences sorafenib sensitivity. We showed that β-HB pretreatment decreased cell proliferation and enhanced antiproliferative effect of sorafenib in both Huh7 and HepG2 cells. In conclusion, this study defined the impacts of HMGCS2 expression and ketone body treatment on influencing the sorafenib sensitivity of liver cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8015
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • ketone body
  • sorafenib

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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